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Surround Yourself with Other Amazing Women (part 3)

I met this next amazing woman a couple of years ago when she opened her new business on the island with us. She started this women's networking/ support group for expectant mothers and professionals that can help them along the way. I was so inspired by her thoughtfulness and immediate impact in the community, that I knew I had to be a part of her "world." We quickly became business pals, she became my Pelvic Floor PT when I was expecting my son, and fast friends.

I am so excited to introduce Dr. Gretchen Brooker!

What made you want to be a pelvic floor PT? I knew I wanted to be a physical therapist in high school - my grandma had her hip replaced and her rehab was my first experience with physical therapy and I thought it was amazing to help people be mobile again. It wasn't until physical therapy school I learned about pelvic floor therapy, and it wasn't even that much. We had a guest lecturer who was a pelvic floor therapist who mostly discussed pregnancy and postpartum rehab. At this time in physical therapy school, I loved treating orthopedics and the spine. I already had internships in outpatient orthopedic settings. In one of my internships, a therapist at the clinic was a pelvic floor physical therapist - it was there I saw her treat a woman with stress incontinence and a man with constipation - I thought it was amazing we could help with these things! That's when I was hooked and started planning to specialize. My favorite story of why I believe my path to a pelvic floor therapist was "meant to be" was my last internship in Maryland - I chose Maryland because I have family on the East Coast. My placement was over two hours from them, so I had to find other housing. I posted on a students physical therapy page and there was one girl in a small town of Maryland that had a room available in her house and she was a pelvic floor therapist! So I was able to live with her, shadow her and learn from her a bit which also solidified my passion for pelvic health.

How much schooling was required for your path? An undergraduate degree is required for physical therapy school - I went to College of Charleston for undergraduate and majored in Exercise Science. Physical therapy school is 3 years for a doctorate degree in physical therapy - I went to the University of St Augustine in Florida. To specialize in pelvic health, you have to take extra training post PT school - you do not learn internal pelvic floor muscle exams in PT school. I specialized through Alcove Education and Herman & Wallace - I became a board certified pelvic rehab practitioner through Herman & Wallace about 3 years after practicing. When did you know you wanted to be an entrepreneur/business owner? I truly never thought I would be a business owner! We learned a little about business/clinic ownership in PT school and I just didn't think it was my path. After graduating and working in the "real world" of outpatient orthopedics and pelvic health - I quickly realized the burnout that occurs with high volume clinics. Unfortunately insurance reimbursement for physical therapy has been declining for years which is placing more demand on in-network clinics to see more patients in less time. In my opinion, this leads to inefficient therapy and outcomes - it becomes a burnout to the therapist and ineffective for the patient. In pelvic health, due to the private nature of needing 1:1 treatment time, this way of practicing was not practical and not a great service to my patients. It was at this time I was getting married, planning for a family, seeing 40-50 patients a week and barely paying the bills and student loans. I was looking at PRN home health or nursing home jobs to supplement my income already with a full time job - I knew this wasn't sustainable. I decided to get married and quit my job, which was a little scary I will admit, however it was nice to enjoy our wedding, honeymoon and holidays and decided I would figure out what I would do next in the new year. In January of 2021, I found a small office to rent on Johns Island and started seeing patients as my own practitioner. The freedom I felt to treat patients how I wanted to, and how I saw clinically fit, was amazing. My patients had improved outcomes and I had more autonomy as a practitioner and could treat patients based on what they needed - rather than how their insurance was dictating care. I've had to navigate the hard parts of business - finances, logistics, marketing, etc - which has not been easy, but business ownership has been the best personal growth I've ever experienced and I will never look back. How has it been balancing being a mom, business owner, and doctor? It is hard! Five months into starting my business in January of 2021, I found out I was pregnant with our first baby. I worked through pregnancy and was worried my business would fall apart in the months I would be taking a maternity leave. My son was born in January of 2022 and I paused business until April - this meant I was not making any income at this time. We relied on my husband's income and savings. When I went back in April, I feared I would be "starting over", however it actually was the opposite. Going through pregnancy, birth and postpartum - my passion for women also navigating this journey ignited and I was able to connect with my community. My business year of 2022 from April to December tripled as compared to my entire first year of 2021, which was so exciting. However, I still was a new mom and a wife. It hasn't been easy to wear all the hats as a working mom, business owner and a wife. I'm not perfect and still figuring it out. I have pretty strong boundaries now where I spend every morning and breakfast with my son, take him to daycare and am home by dinner time so we can have dinner as a family. It has taken time to develop those boundaries and I always prioritize my family time first. My main goal of growing my business was to allow more flexibility and time with my family - we are getting there! I am now not the only practitioner at Break Free Pelvic Health & Wellness and have an administrative assistant to take some of the workload. I was the only practitioner and did all of my scheduling for the first two years of my business. What would you want to tell your past self knowing what you know now-regarding anything! (personal, professional, relationships etc) What ever you feel like sharing: Let go of everything you thought you knew. There is no "right way" to do something. I had so many self limiting beliefs about myself, my abilities, business and what is "supposed to be." Our society is good at making us think we have to stay on a specific path or stick to one thing. For example, I couldn't get over the fact that I never wanted to be a business owner, like it was an identity crisis. I had to let go of this and realize that our brains try to keep us safe and to keep us doing the same things - I had to realize that our desires change sometimes and that is OK. The fact that I did now want to be a business owner is OK! There is also no "right way" to do something - many people who start a business do so because they believe things should be done differently and want to show that to the world. I would also want to tell my past self that you have so many great things ahead - a husband who will support you to your path of business ownership, two sons that will be your world and motivation, a family that has your back and a God who will never let you fail and continuously remind you of your incredible worth no matter what you end up doing in this world. Having faith that God is with you through every decision and situation deters fear that you can never fail.

What advice would you give other women pursuing your field/niche or entrepreneurship or both? In terms of women pursuing physical therapy, think about the setting you want to be in and why! Of course I love pelvic health and we need more pelvic floor therapists! As I mentioned earlier, the insurance based world of physical therapy is becoming a challenging place to work. I think that physical therapy school is such a valuable education and I would 100% recommend opening your own practice. Business ownership is not for everyone, but if you think you want to - try. If you find it is not what you wanted, you can always go back. You can always do something else. The one regret you'll have is that you never tried. Women in general considering entrepreneurship - go for it, girl. It will be the most intense path of self discovery and personal growth. Society places so many expectations on women, so I think that if you have that desire for business ownership and you are also a mom - you can absolutely do it. There is no one that says you have to choose one or another. Choose what brings your heart peace and joy, then do it without anyone telling you what you "should do."

This is so wonderful! Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy practice schedule and being a momma bear to answer these questions! Your impact on the future is so amazing. I am so proud of you!

If you would like to know more about Dr. Gretchen you can find her at


Dr. Ariel Blackburn


Holistic Health Provider

Momma Bear



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